Marzipan Hedgehogs (Marcipánoví Ježci)

Marzipan M2 version
Marzipan hedgehogs with marzipan Christmas tree and marzipan candy star “gifts”

Czech Christmas Cookie/Confection #9

These cute little hedgehogs are not my mother-in-law’s creation, but I couldn’t resist including them in my Czech Christmas cookie countdown. Actually, they’re not really cookies either, but candy confections. Many Czechs (and other Europeans) love both marzipan confections and hedgehogs – animals that can occasionally be seen in rural areas of Europe. If you like, you can use some of the marzipan to make other shaped things, as I did in the photo above. Marzipan can be colored with gel food coloring, and decorated in many ways. It can also be used in recipes like sweet breads, baked cookies, and more. This recipe makes about 12 oz (350 g) of marzipan. These marzipan hedgehogs are not baked. Continue reading

Princess Cookies (Princezky)

Princezky Princess cookies finished
Filled Princezky. Pipe the filling to make slightly prettier. Sorry the otvírák is in the photo.

Czech Christmas Cookie #8

Bite into these chewy nutty meringue-style sandwich cookies to reach the bliss of a delicious chocolate buttercream filling. My mother-in-law usually used roasted hazelnuts or walnuts for the meringue cookie, but some Czechs use blanched almonds. The nut choice will affect the color, a bit. Meant to be a one or two-bite cookie – that is, if you can stop at only one cookie! These were my husband’s favorite Christmas cookie, as a child. The pictured Princezky were made using finely ground roasted hazelnuts, our favorite nut choice. This combination, with the chocolate buttercream, is a little reminiscent of Nutella. Even yummier, in my view. They do crisp up a little over time, but are still great. Continue reading

Flower Bouquet #4 of 4 – Things happen for a reason

flowers airplane better

To read Part 1, click here.

To read Parts 2 & 3, click here.

I remained college roommates with my friend Liz until her graduation, one year ahead of mine. In my sophomore year (her junior), I lived with her and two of our friends in a campus apartment. It wasn’t long before I realized that I preferred dormitory life. I felt frustrated with the apartment arrangement for various reasons, but mostly because it seemed isolating. Something else might have happened, or not, but I grew very depressed. That year, I had the second worst depression to that date, after one I had at 15 ½. I couldn’t leave my room, at times, and therefore missed many classes. I stopped eating. I was paralyzed! I went from getting all A’s and B’s to getting mostly C’s and a D one semester. I had dropped out of two classes, decreasing my credit load to 12, the minimum required to live in campus housing. But the depression eventually passed. Not slowly, but quite suddenly. Continue reading

Flower Bouquets #2 & #3 – Bipolar mania and lack of empathy

flower on the floor

To read Part 1, click here.

Major changes in life are stressful for anyone, but especially for people prone to, or with, bipolar disorder. My freshman year at college was, indeed, stressful. Even the positive stuff! Like many young college students, I did a lot of partying my first year. There were so many young people on the many campuses of the huge university I attended. So many activities! The city itself was far larger than my small hometown of three thousand, requiring buses to go from campus to campus. As a boarding student, I was away from folks long-term for the first time, caring for myself completely. My classes were intensive and the study environment was far different than I was used to. If there was ever a large trigger for a bipolar episode, this was it! Continue reading

Four Bouquets of Flowers – Short stories from my youth (#1 of 4)

Mild Trigger Warning – This post series may contain some events that could be mild emotional triggers, especially for those who’ve experienced some form of stalking, rejection, or molestation.

A while back, I mentioned that I was writing a memoir in order to save past memories before they became too fuzzy in my mind. I’ve actually written a chunk of it. Draft chapters can be found by selecting “Story Series” in my Category list (on the right sidebar). The “Four Bouquets of Flowers” stories are ones I can’t quite fit into the memoir effectively, but wanted to write about, all the same.

Flower Bouquet # 1 of 4 – Scary teen experience

Continue reading

Biskupský Chlebíček (Bishop’s Bread)

Bishops bread-Cthebird
Bishop’s Bread made in small Rehreucken pan (I used two). Ignore muffins.

Have you ever had Bishop’s Bread? If not, many recipes you’ll see online resemble the notorious fruit cake that Americans joke about as a “re-gifting” item.  My Czech mother-in-law’s recipe does contain some lemon zest, but beyond that, it’s more of a chocolate chip and nut lover’s dream. This cake wonderfully combines bittersweet chocolate with hazelnuts (or walnuts or pecans), with the lemon zest adding just the right bit of pleasant zest for ultimate deliciousness. This sweet bread contains lots of beaten egg whites. Occasionally, I add some chopped candied orange peel to the batter, if I have some left over from making Marokánky cookies. If I do that, I reduce the chocolate and nut quantities slightly. Continue reading

Chocolate Walnut Meringue Cookies (Pusinky s vlašskými ořechy)

Chocolate Walnut Meringues
On salad plate. Make smaller for Christmas platter, but be consistent with size.

Czech Christmas Cookie #7

A nutty meringue cookie with a hint of chocolate flavor. This cookie can last for weeks. Because of that, during WWII, my Czech mother-in-law sent a large batch of these cookies to Jewish friends that sadly were taken to a concentration camp. These were a favorite of my husband’s father. My mother-in-law spread the batter in a pan, then cut them into squares. I prefer to bake them in individual traditional small rounds. I think they’re prettier that way. As with many others, these taste even better as they age.

Do follow the recipe exactly as written. Definitely use walnuts and real confectioner’s sugar. I tried other nuts with less success. Low/no calorie confectioner’s sugar substitutes made the recipe fail.

Continue reading

Rum Balls with Rum Soaked Dried Cherries inside (Rumové Kuličky)

Rum ballsCzech Christmas Cookie #6

Rum, chocolate, walnut balls with the delight of rum-soaked dried cherries in their centers, pack a delicious flavor punch. No wheat flour needed. They even improve with age, but I tend to eat up the first batch quickly. They are traditionally rolled in unsweetened cocoa, which gives them a nice flavor bite, but you can get even more creative, as I did for the photo above (cocoa, finely grated coconut, finely chopped/ground nuts, and multi-color nonpareils). Continue reading

Bear Paw Cookies (Pracny or Medvědí Tlapky)

Pracny croppedCzech Christmas Cookie #5

Pracny (or Medvědí Tlapky) are very traditional Czech nut and spice cookies baked in special cookie molds, some looking like bear paws. The following recipe has a light amount of spices. Other recipes include more. Feel free to increase the ground cinnamon and clove amounts a bit, according to your taste. Too much clove can get overwhelming, though. This is an eggless recipe. Traditional molds for pracny can be found online. I purchased mine at https://www.slovczechvar.com/?cat=26&scat=88, which is an online store in the US.

I have only ever used smooth flour for this recipe. Unbleached pastry flour (see below) should be an equivalent. I’m not sure how they would turn out using all-purpose flour. Continue reading

Moroccan Cookies (Marokánky)

Marakanky with craisins detailed
The above pictured Moroccan cookies (on salad plate) were made with candied orange peel, Craisins, sliced almonds and chopped walnuts. My favorite combo.

Czech Christmas Cookie #4

A crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside cookie with the delights of fruit and nuts, and bittersweet chocolate on the bottom. The batter is prepared in a saucepan, cooled then baked, and later dipped in chocolate. The original recipe calls for candied orange peel with nuts, but other dried fruit (or a combination) could be used. The combination of candied orange peel and dried cranberries (i.e. Craisins), with the nuts, is especially nice for the holidays. I highly suggest using candied orange peel. It gives the cookie its signature lovely flavor. I have found it in gourmet shops, but usually order it online. US ingredient equivalents/substitutions are provided, where necessary. I suggest weighing the fruit and nuts. Continue reading